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- The Last of the Huggermuggers - 6/7 -
Huggermuggers--the Huggers on the male side, and the Muggers on the female--were men smaller than me, the poor dwarf. Hundred of years ago they came to this island, directed hither by an old woman, a sort of witch, who told them that if they and their children, and their children's children, ate constantly of a particular kind of shell-fish, which was found in great abundance here, they would continue to increase in size, with each successive generation, until they became proportioned to all other growth on the island--till they became giants--such giants as the Huggermuggers. But that the last survivors of the race would meet with some great misfortune, if this secret should ever he told to more than one person out of the Huggermugger family. I have reasons for believing that Huggermugger and his wife are the last of their race; for all their ancestors and relations are dead, and they have no children, and are likely to have none. _Now there are two persons who have been told the secret. It was told to me, and I tell it to you_!"
As Kobboltozo ended, his face wore an almost fiendish expression of savage triumph, as if he had now settled the giants' fate forever.
"But," said Scrawler, "how came _you_ into possession of this tremendous secret; and, if true, why do you wish any harm to happen to the good Huggermuggers?"
"I hate them!" said the dwarf. "They are rich--I am poor. They are big and well-formed--I am little and crooked. Why should not my race grow to be as shapely and as large as they; for _my_ ancestors were as good as theirs, and I have heard that they possessed the island before the Huggermuggers came into it? No! I am weary of the Huggermuggers. I have more right to the island than they. But they have grown by enchantment, while my race only grew to a certain size, and then we stopped and grew crooked. But the Huggermuggers, if there should be any more of them, will grow till they are like the trees of the forest.
"Then as to the way I discovered their mystery. I was taking home a pair of shoes for the giantess, and was just about to knock at the door, when I heard the giant and his wife talking. I crept softly up and listened. They have great voices--not difficult to hear _them_. They were talking about a secret door in the wall, and of something precious which was locked up within a little closet. As soon as their voices ceased, I knocked, and was let in. I assumed an appearance as if I had heard nothing, and they did not suspect me. I went and told Hammawhaxo, the carpenter--a friend of mine, and a dwarf like me. I knew he didn't like Huggermugger much. Hammawhaxo was employed at the time to repair the bottom of a door in the giant's house, where the rats had been gnawing. So he went one morning before the giants were up, and tapped all around the wainscoting of the walls with his hammer, till he found a hollow place, and a sliding panel, and inside the wall he discovered an old manuscript in the ancient Hugger language, in which was written the secret I have told you. And now we will see if the old fortune-teller's prophecy is to come true or not."
MRS. HUGGERMUGGER GROWS THIN AND FADES AWAY.
Scrawler, though delighted to get hold of such a story to put into his book, could not help feeling a superstitious fear that the prediction might be verified, and some misfortune before the good Huggermuggers. It could not come from him or any of his friends, he was sure; for Zebedee Nabbum's first idea of entrapping the giant was long since abandoned. If he was ever to be taken away from the island, it could only be by the force of persuasion, and he was sure that Huggermugger would not voluntarily leave his wife.
Scrawler only hinted then to Huggermugger, that he feared Kobboltozo was his enemy. But Huggermugger laughed, and said he knew the dwarf was crabbed and spiteful, but that he did not fear him. Huggermugger was not suspicious by nature, and it never came into his thoughts that Kobboltozo, or any other dwarf could have the least idea of his great secret.
Little Jacket came now frequently to the giant's house, where he became a great favorite. He had observed, for some days, that Mrs. Huggermugger's spirits were not so buoyant as usual. She seldom laughed--she sometimes sat alone and sighed, and even wept. She ate very little of shell-fish--even her favorite frog had lost its relish. She was growing thin--the once large, plump woman. Her husband, who really loved her, though his manner towards her was sometimes rough, was much concerned. He could not enjoy his lonely supper--he scarcely cared for his pipe. To divert his mind, he would sometimes linger on the shore, talking to the little men, as he called them. He would strip off this long boots and his clothes, and wade out into the sea to get a nearer view of the ship. He could get near enough to talk to them on board. "How should you like to go with us," said the little men, one day, "and sail away to see new countries? We can show you a great deal that you haven't seen. If you went to America with us, you would be the greatest man there."
Huggermugger laughed, but not one of his hearty laughs--his mind was ill at ease about his wife. But the idea was a new one, of going away from giant-land to a country of pygmies. Could he ever go? Not certainly without his wife--and she would never leave the island. Why should he wish to go away? "To be sure." he said, "it is rather lonely here--all our kindred dead--nobody to be seen but little ugly dwarfs. And I really like these little sailors, and shall be sorry to part with them. No, here I shall remain, wife and I, and here we shall end our days. We are the last of the giants--let us not desert our native soil."
Mrs. Huggermugger grew worse and worse. It seemed to be a rapid consumption. No cause could be discovered for her sickness. A dwarf doctor was called in, but he shook his head--he feared he could do nothing. Little Jacket came with the ship's doctor, and brought some medicines. She took them, but they had no effect. She could not now rise from her bed. Her husband sat by her side all the time. The good-hearted sailors did all they could for her, which was not much. Even Zebedee Nabbum's feelings were touched. He told her Yankee stories, and tales of wild beasts--of elephants, not bigger than one of her pigs--of lions and bears as small as lapdogs--of birds not larger than one of their flies. All did what they could to lessen her sufferings. "To think," said Zebedee, "aint it curious--who'd a thought that great powerful critter could ever get sick and waste away like this!"
THE SORROWS OF HUGGERMUGGER.
At last, one morning while the sailors were lounging about on the beach, they saw the great Huggermugger coming along, his head bent low, and the great tears streaming down his face. They all ran up to him. He sat, or rather threw himself down on the ground. "My dear little friends," said he, "it's all over. I never shall see my poor wife again--never again--never again--I am the last of the Huggermuggers. She is gone. And as for me--I care not now whither I go. I can never stay here--not here--it will be too lonely. Let me go and bury my poor wife, and then farewell to giant-land! I will go with you, if you will take me!"
They were all much grieved. They took Huggermugger's great hands, as he sat there, like a great wrecked and stranded ship, swayed to and fro by the waves and surges of his grief, and their tears mingled with his. He took them into his arms, the great Huggermugger, and kissed them. "You are the only friends left me now," he said, "take me with you from this lonely place. She who was so dear to me is gone to the great Unknown, as on a boundless ocean; and this great sea which lies before us is to me like it. Whether I live or die, it is all one--take me with you. I am helpless now as a child!"
HUGGERMUGGER LEAVES HIS ISLAND
Zebedee Nabbum could not help thinking how easily he had obtained permission of his giant. There was nothing to do but to make room for him in the ship, and lay in a stock of those articles of foods which the giant was accustomed to eat, sufficient for a long voyage.
Huggermugger laid his wife in a grave by the sea-shore, and covered it over with the beautiful large shells which she so loved. He then went home, opened the secret door in the wall, took out the ancient manuscript, tied a heavy stone to it, and sunk it in a deep well under the rocks, into which he also threw the key of his house, after having taken everything he needed for his voyage, and locked the doors.
The ship was now all ready to sail. The sailors had made a large raft, on which the giant sat and paddled himself to the ship, and climbed on board. The ship was large enough to allow him to stand, when the sea was still, and even walk about a little; but Huggermugger preferred the reclining posture, for he was weary and needed repose.
During the first week or two of the voyage, his spirits seemed to revive. The open sea, without any horizon, the sails spreading calmly above him, the invigorating salt breeze, the little sailors clambering up the shrouds and on the yards, all served to divert his mind from his great grief. The sailors came to around him and told him stories, and described the country to which they were bound; and sometimes Mr. Nabbum brought out his elephants, which Huggermugger patted and fondled like dogs. But poor Huggermugger was often sea-sick, and could not sit up. The sailors made him as comfortable as they could. By night they covered him up and kept him warm, and by day they stretched an awning above him to protect him from the sun. He was so accustomed to the open air, that he was never too cold nor too warm. But poor Huggermugger, after a few weeks more, began to show the symptoms of a more serious illness then sea-sickness. A nameless melancholy took possession of him. He refused to eat--he spoke little, and only lay and gazed up at the white sails and the blue sky. By degrees, he began to waste away, very much as his wife did. Little Jacket felt a real sorrow and sympathy, and so did they all. Zebedee Nabbum, however, it must be confessed "though he felt a kind o' sorry for the poor critter," thought more of the loss it would be to him, as a money speculation, to have him die before they reached America. "It would be too bad," he said, "after all the trouble and expense I've had, and when the critter was so willin', too, to come aboard, to go and have him die. We must feed him well, and try hard to save him; for we can't
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